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Simcha Groffman

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Parashas Nitzavim

Closer Than You Think

"For this mitzvah that I command you today - it is not hidden from you and it is not distant. It is not in heaven…Nor is it across the sea…Rather the matter is very near to you" Devarim (30:11-14). Which mitzvah is the Torah referring to? There are two opinions among the meforshim. The Ramban explains that the mitzvah of teshuva, mentioned in the previous verse, is very close to us. Never is this fact more obvious than in these days of Elul and Tishrei. Hashem is close to us during these Yimay Ratzon (Days of Special Favor). His door is open to all who truly wish to return to Him. The Dubno Maggid has a compelling parable on the subject. This story is based on that.

"Dovid, my good friend, I haven't seen you in many years. How are you?"

Dovid forces an uneasy smile to his face.

"I feel okay. However the doctor tells me that I am not well."

"Oh my."

The two men continue talking and discover that they both suffer from the same disease.

"Do you have a good doctor, Dovid?"

"I hope so Shlomo. He has prescribed a very uncomfortable treatment for me. The medications are powerful and unpleasant."

"Oy vey. Do you want to contact my doctor? He has a different approach. He uses mild medications, which are actually pleasant. He has an excellent reputation."

"That sounds fantastic. How do I get in touch with him?"

"I will give you his telephone number, but before you call him you should know one thing. He has one condition that must be fulfilled before he begins treating a patient. He will only help someone who is interested in helping himself. This disease is caused by eating foods that damage the body. Therefore, the doctor will only treat you if you promise to follow his instructions and refrain from eating those damaging foods."

"I see. I must consider this carefully before calling the doctor."

That is the parable. The sick people are those Jews who are laden with tumah (impurity) from their sins. Hashem is the wise doctor who will purify them. As Rebbe Akiva said, "Fortunate are you, people of Israel! Before Whom are you purified, and Who purifies you? Your Father in Heaven" (Yuma 85b). These Yimay Ratzon from Rosh Chodesh Elul until Yom Kippur are especially suited for teshuva. But wait! Is it really true? Year after year, we pass through Yom Kippur and we do not find ourselves purified from the tumah. What went wrong?

We did not fulfill the doctor's one condition. To refrain from the bad foods. Our sins are compared to the unhealthy foods. Just as they bring the sickness, so too the sins bring the tumah. Hashem, the wise doctor, will only heal and purify us if we agree to refrain from the sinning, which brings the tumah. That is teshuva. That is our part. When we do our part, He will do His part.

Kinderlach . . .

Is teshuva difficult? Not at all! It is not in heaven…Nor is it across the sea…Rather the matter is very near to you…In you mouth and in your heart to perform it" Devarim (30:14). The Torah promises that teshuva is right in front of you, waiting for you to reach out and grab it. When you do, Hashem will welcome you with open arms, like a long lost father. My little Yiddle has come back to Me. Let Me clean him up and hold him close to Me. He loves Me and I love him.

Wealthy Forever

"Abba, that is a magnificent home. Just the gardens alone are worth more than our house."

"Eli, I know the owner, personally."

"Really? He must be a very wealthy man."

"I knew him before he was rich. He had a regular job. However, he had a burning ambition to be rich. He saved all of his salary money, and lived like a poor man. In a few years, he bought a business. He continued to live very poorly, putting all of the profits back into the business. The business grew and he became very wealthy. Now he no longer has to live like a poor man."

"He was willing to be poor temporarily in order to have long-term wealth."

"Exactly, Eli."

"The Chofetz Chaim speaks along similar lines, Abba."

"I cannot believe that the holy Chofetz Chaim advocates amassing a fortune of money, Eli."

"No, Abba. He advises us to amass a fortune of Torah."

"Now that sounds more like Rav Yisrael Meir."

"He writes in his commentary on parashas Nitzavim that the only fortune to be earned in this world is the Torah."

"It is not in heaven" (Devarim 30:12). There is no Torah in heaven. Torah was given to be learned down here, to purify our souls. Without the Torah, we would be poor forever. When we learn Torah, we amass a great fortune. Even if we are poor in this world, it is only temporary. Like the man in the story, who was willing to undergo temporary poverty to receive great wealth. Torah riches are beyond comprehension.

Kinderlach . . .

Now is the time to work hard. You will have plenty of time to enjoy your Torah fortune later. However, you only have a short amount of time to work at learning Torah. Do not waste even one minute. Fabulous wealth awaits you.

Long Term Contract

"For you pass into a covenant with Hashem ... whoever is here with us today, and whoever is not here with us today" (Devarim 29:11,14). This bris was for all future generations of the Jewish people. The Malbim asks a startling question. How can we, who are living 3000 years later, be obligated to an agreement made by our forefathers? A contract made without the consent of one of the parties is not binding. We were not there to agree to this. To answer this question, we first must realize that The Almighty does not need our agreement. The All Powerful One can impose His terms upon anyone at any time. This bris is an advantage for us, not an obligation. Without this bris, punishment would come swiftly for those who go against Hashem's will. He is patient, disciplining slowly, hoping that the sinner will realize his mistakes and do teshuva (repentance). Teshuva is for our good, to purify our souls, and earn us eternal reward. Hashem is assuring us that He will never forget us. He will never let us sink so low that we are lost. We have mutually committed to a bris (covenant) binding us together forever.

Kinderlach . . .

Rosh Hashanah is almost upon us. It marks the beginning of a new year. A time of renewal. Now is the time to renew and strengthen our relationship with Hashem. When we come close to Him by doing teshuva, He will come close to us. Those are the terms of the bris that we entered 3000 years ago. Do your part. Hashem is waiting for you.

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